What the papers said 29th August 2018
The sudden departure of France's Environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, dominates the papers, while president Macron's trip up north in a bid to strengthen Europe generates interest.
The front page of most French dailies is dedicated to the resignation of the country's Environment minister Nicolas Hulot. The headlines are attention-worthy.
They range from Les Echo's "Macron fragile as Hulot regains his freedom" to more creative ones such as "The Hulot storm" on Le Parisien's front page or even conservative Le Figaro's "Hulot pollutes Macron's rentrée".
Le Monde quotes the former journalist and green activist as saying that he could "no longer keep lying to himself" and that he felt very "alone among the executive". The centrist daily notes that the "green icon" was powerless and only few of the environmental challenges were tackled. The final straw was a new measure that gave hunters more rights and a greater choice in the number of species they could shoot. Hulot is tired of holding his tongue in matters like nuclear power or palm oil imports. Libération says his resignation highlights the incompatibility of the French government's liberal economic model with the urgency of climate change measures. The power of lobby groups over the French government is something Hulot bitterly regrets.
Finance paper Les Echos reports that NGO's are viewing his departure as a waste, while opposition parties from the left right and centre see this as a sign that Emmanuel Macron's government is weakening. Meanwhile the President insists that his environmental ambitions have not changed one bit. He's quoted as saying that he appointed Nicolas Hulot 15 months ago because "he is a free man and that he respects his freedom" and that he hoped to call upon his commitment to environment in the future.
So who is set to replace the TV personality?
Macron and Prime minister Edouard Philippe are going to be taking some time to think things through. The President is currently on a tour of France's Scandinavian neighbours so the timing of Hulot's resignation is far from ideal.
Le Parisien predicts an important cabinet re-shuffle. The paper notes that Macron hates making hasty decisions under pressure and this summer has not been an easy one between the Benalla Scandal which saw his security advisor beat up demonstrators, or his culture minister Françoise Nyssen not declaring important spendings in her previous positions. Needless to say a number of cabinet members could potentially get the boot.
Le Parisien quotes one MP as saying "Maybe he'll actually pick someone from the left". The paper speculates a few names that range from Segolène Royale to France's current head of WWF.
Macron in Scandinavia
The President is visiting Europe's Nordic countries in what Le Figaro describes as "a seduction operation". It says he wants to rally the Danes to the European cause so he can better face Eurosceptics. The paper notes that he is actually the first French head of state to visit the kingdom since 1982. And he'll also be heading to Finland which has not hosted a French president for 19 years. Needless to say Macron's trip has generated a lot of enthusiasm with some locals travelling to the royal palace to get a glimpse of him.
Les Echos believes Macron seeks inspiration from the Nordic model in rebuilding the European Union, combining ”high social protection and a flexible work market". However Denmark, along with several other Nordic countries, have signed a text against a Eurozone reform. Other thorny issues include taxation of digital giants, who seek to base some of their big data in these countries, and the movement of migrants.
There’s not much more to be said about the largest defeat for a sitting government…